THE EVAN B. DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE
MARCH 2004 E-NEWSLETTER

IN THIS ISSUE

1. Laws, Policy & Practice

2. Research

3. News

4. Resources

5. About the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

 


1. Laws, Policy & Practice


INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION REFORM BILL INTRODUCED IN U.S. HOUSE 

Rep. Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2004 (ICARE HR3896) in the House this month, where it was referred to the Committee on International Relations. The companion bill in the Senate (S1934) is still with the Judiciary Committee. The legislation creates an Office of Intercountry Adoptions (OIA) in the State Department. The OIA would be charged with performing six functions, including approving families to adopt internationally, determining that children are legally free for adoption, and assuming immigration functions from the Department of Homeland Security. ICARE would also confer United States citizenship on children upon entry of the final adoption decree, not upon entry into the United States. The bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act's definition of "adoptable child," so the Intercountry Adoption Act definition applies in non-Hague Convention cases, too. To find out more about HR3896, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search for HR3896 in the bill number field.

U.S. CONDUCTS INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION NEGOTIATIONS WITH VIETNAM

A March 19, 2004, State Department notice reports that a delegation from the department met this month "with a Government of Vietnam delegation to discuss a draft instrument on intercountry adoptions." Vietnam has not signed the Hague Convention and requires countries where it places children for adoption to execute bilateral agreements with it. While the meetings did not result in an agreement, "The United States and Vietnam are committed to continuing dialogue with a view toward reaching agreement on a bilateral document as soon as possible." Since 1962, U.S. parents have adopted over 8,000 children from Vietnam, adopting 382 in Fiscal Year 2003. To read the notice, go to: http://travel.state.gov/vietnamupdate.html.

U.S. EXAMINING WHETHER CAMBODIA IS FIXING 'SERIOUSLY FLAWED' ADOPTION PROCESS 

The State Department reports that earlier this month U.S. officials visited Cambodia "to ascertain whether the Government of Cambodia has made sufficient efforts to approve adoption legislation and establish procedures that provide for adequate safeguards to protect the interests of children, birth parents and adoptive parents and eliminate opportunities for fraud and other abuses such as baby selling." The U.S. has not made "any decisions regarding the future of adoptions in Cambodia at this time." Citing "baby selling and baby abduction" as well as a "seriously flawed" adoption process in Cambodia, the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service declared a suspension of U.S. adoptions from Cambodia in December 2001. To read the notice, go to: http://travel.state.gov/Cambodia_Adoption_Notice_21902.html

HAWAII HOUSE APPROVES AMENDED 'SAFE HAVEN' LEGISLATION

The Hawaii House of Representatives passed a bill this month (HB1901) providing immunity from prosecution for "a person" leaving a newborn 72-hours or younger at a hospital, fire station or police station as long as the infant "is accompanied by written information concerning any known family medical history." The legislation provides that staff accepting the child "shall not inquire into the identity of the mother or the other person leaving" the child, while also stating "the department may reunify the newborn with the newborn's parents . . . provided that the department has information as to the identity of the newborn child, the newborn's mother, or the newborn's father." The legislation's preamble states that by requiring the provision of medical information, the bill corrects the deficiency that led Governor Lingle to veto a similar bill last year. The Governor's concerns about the previous bill (HB133), however, also included the absence of requirements for the abandoning individual to prove parenthood and the bill's failure to focus "on the long-term well being of the newborn." The bill is currently before a Senate committee; last month the Senate deferred acting on its own infant abandonment bill (SB2587). To read the bill, go to: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/sessioncurrent/bills/hb1901_hd1_.htm to find out its status, go to: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/docs/getstatus2.asp?billno=HB1901

MASSACHUSETTS INFANT ABANDONMENT BILL HEADS TO SENATE

The Massachusetts House passed a bill (H4325) this month legalizing anonymous infant abandonment. The legislation provides an affirmative defense to the parent of a newborn 7 days or younger left at a hospital, fire station or police department. People receiving the infant "shall make every effort to solicit" identifying information and medical history. H4325 also requires the state to implement a public information campaign about safe havens, "teen pregnancy prevention programs and adoption information," and assess the effectiveness of the legislation. The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on March 18, 2004. The bill is not available on the Massachusetts General Court website; to find out the bill's status, go to: http://www.state.ma.us/legis/history/h04325.htm

NEW JERSEY MOVES TO AMEND ABANDONMENT LAW TO ENCOURAGE USE

 An amendment to New Jersey's "safe haven" law (A312) that provides prosecutorial immunity, as opposed to an affirmative defense, and prohibits the state from identifying or contacting the newborn's parents even if they provided identifying information, passed the House last month. An identical version of the bill (S1320) is now before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. According to a March 20, 2004, article in the New York Times, since the availability of safe havens in New Jersey, 16 infants have been safely abandoned and 15 have been unsafely abandoned. "Program Questioned After Another Dead Baby is Found," by Jason George, reports that more newborns have been left in public places in 2004 than 2003. The state this year increased funding for public awareness of the law in schools and communities. To read the bill, go to: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2004/Bills/A0500/312_R2.PDF; to purchase the article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/20/nyregion/20baby.html.

PENNSYLVANIA SEEKS TO INCREASE SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTIONS 

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation (H345) to promote the adoption of special needs children by providing for adoption assistance, "which may include medical assistance and other applicable special services, a monthly cash payment or reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses." The bill was approved without amendments restricting adoption by homosexuals, and is before the Senate Committee on Aging and Youth. To read and find out more about the bill, go to: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/BI/ALL/2003//0//HB0345.HTM

OPEN RECORDS BILL PROGRESSES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE 

The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill (SB335) this month, without amendment, allowing adopted people 18 years and older access to their original birth certificates upon request. Current law permits the release of identifying information to adoptees 21 or older only if a court has found "good cause" or if birth parents have filed a release with the child-placement agency and have "been contacted, if possible, by the agency, and reaffirmed [their] desire to be contacted." Existing law also gives agencies receiving requests from adoptees and birth parents discretion in cases where no release of information has been filed for contacting birth parents and adoptees to discover their preferences. The pending bill permits adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates on request and replaces references to "natural" parents with "birth" parents. The legislation was referred to the House Children & Family Law Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for April 6, 2004. To read and find out more about the bill, go to: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/ie/billstatus/quickbill.html and search for SB335 in the bill number field.

NEW JERSEY WEIGHS ADOPTEE ACCESS TO ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES 

A bill providing access to original birth certificates for adopted people 18 and older on written request to the state registrar (S1093) is currently before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. The legislation also enables birth parents to file contact preference forms, and requires agencies and attorneys to provide such forms to all birth parents going forward. The bill facilitates the exchange of information by, among other mechanisms, requesting family history information from birth parents when they file contact forms and allocating funds to educate the public. S1093 removes a provision of current law that allows courts to substitute the place of birth on adopted children's birth certificates with the adoptive parents' residence. To read the bill, go to: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2004/Bills/S1500/1093_I1.PDF

BOTH HOUSES OF NEW YORK LEGISLATURE CONSIDERING ADOPTEE BILL OF RIGHTS 

Both houses of the New York legislature have before them adoptee bills of rights (A6238a and S2631a), conferring upon adopted people 18 and older the right to obtain their original birth certificates.  The bill also provides for contact preference forms for birth parents and requires the state to provide medical history forms to birth parents when they request contact forms.  The bill’s explanatory section states that “the Legislature further recognizes that the denial of access to accurate and complete medical and self-identifying data of any citizen, known and willfully withheld by others, may result in that citizen succumbing to preventable disease, premature death or otherwise unhealthy life, is a violation of that citizen’s civil rights and is contrary to the tenets of governance.”  The Assembly bill is with the Judiciary Committee and the Senate companion is with the Health Committee.  To read and find out more about the bills, go to: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A6238a; http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=S2631a

BILL ALTERING LAWS FOR RELINQUISHMENT, REVOCATION HALTED IN MARYLAND 

The Permanency for Families and Children Act of 2004 (HB882), which would permit mothers to relinquish children for adoption right after birth and shorten the revocation time for birth parents, received unfavorable reports from both the Maryland House Judiciary and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committees. To read the bill or find out more about its status, go to: http://mlis.state.md.us/2004rs/billfile/HB0882.htm

PENNSYLVANIA LIMITS BIRTH PARENT REVOCATION PERIOD 

Pennsylvania's Governor signed a bill this month that limits birth parent revocation of consent to adoption to thirty days (HB1423). The Senate amended the House bill, extending the revocation period from twenty to thirty days and changing the terms "natural" mother and father to "birth" mother and father. The original law provided that birth parents could revoke their consents to adoption prior to termination of parental rights or finalized adoption, whichever came first. The new law also shortens birth parent consent to relinquishment from thirty to 3 days of the child being in "the exclusive care" of the prospective adoptive parents. To read the bill, go to http://www2.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/BI/BT/2003/0/HB1423P3386.pdf.

LIMITED SIBLING SEARCH BILL ADVANCES IN MARYLAND 

The Maryland House passed a bill (HB 232) to extend adoption search, contact and reunion to siblings of adoptees, with an amendment requiring that the sibling “has been adopted,” too.  The Senate is holding a hearing on the legislation on March 31, 2004.  To read the bill or find out its status, go to: http://mlis.state.md.us/2004rs/billfile/hb0232.htm. 

NEW YORK COURT RULES UNMARRIED COUPLES CAN JOINTLY ADOPT CHILDREN 

The New York Supreme Court (Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department) this month ruled that two unmarried adults may jointly adopt a child biologically unrelated to both of them. The decision relied on the language of the statute that does not explicitly prohibit or permit unmarried couples from adopting together, the child's best interest standard, and the fact that a two-step adoption procedure "distorts the nature of the proposed adoption." The court also noted that the petition to adopt was unopposed, the adoption agency recommended the adoption be granted, and the women previously had adopted another child. The court remanded the case to the family court to rule on whether the adoption was in the child's best interest. To read the decision, go to: http://www.nycourts.gov/ad4/court/Decisions/2004/03-19-04/PDF/0125.pdf.

FLORIDA SENATOR PROPOSES REPEAL OF STATE'S GAY ADOPTION BAN 

Florida Senator Mandy Dawson (D-Fort Lauderdale) introduced a bill this month to repeal the state's ban on adoptions by homosexuals (SB 2538). The bill is a response to the 11th Circuit's January decision in the Lofton case upholding the state statute banning gay adoption. SB 2538 is currently with several Florida Senate subcommittees and does not have a House companion bill. To read the bill and find out its status, go to: http://www.flsenate.gov/session/index.cfm?BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&Year=2004&billnum=2538


2. Research


CENSUS REPORTS MORE CHILDREN IN 'GROUP QUARTERS' THAN IN FOSTER CARE

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 302,000 children aged 18 and younger lived in "group quarters" (correctional facilities, hospitals, dormitories, and group homes) in the year 2000, while 291,507 children (less than 1% of all children) lived with foster parents, not including relative foster parents. Two-thirds of foster children (67%) were under 12 years of age and foster children were almost twice as likely (9%) to live in "an unmarried partner household" than sons/daughters of householders (5%). The February 2004 report, "Children and the Households They Live In: 2000," by Terry Lugaila and Julia Overturf, found over three-quarters of a million children lived with "other non-relatives." Of children living with relatives, 4.4 million were grandchildren of householders, representing 6% of children in all households, and fewer than 1 million (845,000) children lived with uncles and/or aunts. As specified in an earlier Census Bureau report, 1.6 million children aged 18 and younger were adopted (though this is likely an undercount for reasons including that only the child's relationship to the householder, not the householder's spouse, was considered). To read the report, go to: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/censr-14.pdf.

NUMBER OF CHILDREN ADOPTED INTERNATIONLLY INCREASES 8% IN 2003 

Americans adopted a total of 21,616 children from other countries in 2003, an increase of 1,517 from 2002, according to new State Department numbers of immigrant visas issued for children adopted internationally. The top four "sending" countries remained the same as in the prior year: China (6,859 children adopted in 2003), Russia (5,209), Guatemala (2,328) and South Korea (1,790). Those numbers remained relatively constant from 2002, with the exception of China, which experienced a 36% increase. The number of children adopted from Vietnam decreased 50% from 2002 to 2003, while those from Ukraine fell 36%. Haiti switched places with Bulgaria for the No. 10 spot and with the exception of Azerbaijan replacing Peru at No. 19, no new countries joined the list in 2003. To view historical data charts of children adopted from the top twenty countries and total numbers for 1989-2003, go to: http://travel.state.gov/orphan_numbers.html.

MANY MORE BABIES BORN THROUGH ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY 

The number of infants born who were conceived using assisted reproductive technology (ART) jumped 94% from 20,921 in 1996 to 40,687 in 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ART cycles - defined as "surgically removing eggs from a woman's ovaries and combining the eggs with sperm to help a woman become pregnant" or significant preparation and intent to undergo ART - increased 66%, from 64,724 cycles in 1996 to 107,587 in 2001. "2001 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates," published in December 2003, reports that more than half (58%) of the 384 reporting clinics offered donor embryo services. Donor eggs or embryos were used in over 10% (12,018) of all 2001 ART cycles. Live births per transfer for fresh donor embryos were 47% and for frozen donor embryos were 27%. To access the report, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/ART01/index.htm.

CHILD WELFARE GROUP CRITICAL OF FEDERAL FOSTER CARE FINANCING 

A March 2004 report by Fostering Results found that traditional federal financing rules have the perverse effect of keeping children in temporary care, rather than promoting family reunification or other permanent arrangements. According to the study, "The Foster Care Straitjacket: Innovation, Federal Financing & Accountability in State Foster Care Reform," several states that were granted waivers allowing more flexible use of federal funds for child welfare "have achieved success in reducing the number of children in foster care and the length of time that children spend in foster care." The waiver program will expire at the end of March 2004 unless Congress reauthorizes it; at the same time, no state has passed the federal Children & Family Service Reviews (of the 47 conducted), which may result in reduced federal funding. To read the report, go to: http://www.fosteringresults.org/results/reports/pewreports_03-11-04_straightjacket.pdf


3. News



PROBLEMS REPORTEDLY PLAGUE ADOPTION FROM STATE IN INDIA 

The Dallas Morning News reports that officials in the southern Indian state of Andrah Pradesh stopped international adoptions as a result of concerns that children were obtained illegally. According to the article by Gregory Katz on March 20, 2004, "No place to call home," prosecutors and advocates allege that poor women are forced, lied to and/or paid small sums to turn their children over to middlemen who placed the children with American adoptive parents. One children's advocate is quoted as saying that poor parents in the state have given away 6,000 children, while a union organizer is seeking to end all international adoption in India within two years. Reportedly, even adoptions where there is no evidence of illegality have been denied. India ratified the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption in 2003, the same year that Americans adopted 472 children from India, making it the seventh largest sending country to the United States. To read the article, go to: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/032104dnadopt4.7d48f011.html

COLORADO COUNTY ALLEGEDLY BASES PLACEMENT DECISIONS ON INCOME 

Child advocates in Colorado are concerned that the Adams County Department of Social Services makes adoption decisions on the basis of family income, despite the fact that federal law prohibits placement discrimination on that basis, according to the Denver Post. The Department head contends the issue is not income, but whether "families have appropriate resources," while other department representatives have stated that income is an issue. The February 27, 2004, article by David Olinger, "Role of income in adoptions questioned," reports that experts are concerned because foster parents, who often have relatively small incomes, are a large source of adoptive parents for children in state care. Elsewhere in Colorado, Denver County does not consider income, but does take into account whether there are enough bedrooms for an additional child; Boulder County only weighs income if a family is in "extreme debt," and Jefferson County considers the number of children in the home and income as factors. To read the article, go to: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~1982262,00.html

ONLY ONE AGENCY APPROVED TO CONDUCT ADOPTIONS FROM MARSHALL ISLANDS 

The Central Adoption Authority of the Marshall Islands has approved just one U.S. adoption agency to arrange international adoptions between the Marshall Islands and the United States, effective March 1, 2004, according to an article on Yokwe Online. The agency, Journeys of the Heart in Hillsborough, Oregon, has "demonstrated a history of highest ethics, respect for the Marshallese culture, and utmost competence in dealing with complex international adoptions." To read more, go to: http://www.yokwe.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=723&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0


4. Resources


FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDERS EXPLORED 

"The Invisible Havoc of Prenatal Alcohol Damage,"by Kathryn Page, Ph.D., offers a description of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, its effects on family and attachment, and child welfare implications. The article appears in the 2003 Journal of the Center for Families, Children & the Courts. To read the article, go to: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/programs/cfcc/pdffiles/067Page.pdf


5. About The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute


 

Since its establishment in 1996, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has been a pre-eminent, independent voice for improving adoption for everyone it touches - particularly children - through innovative programs, educational initiatives, research and analysis, and advocacy for better practices, policies and laws.

Our award-winning web site, www.adoptioninstitute.org/old, is a popular and reliable source for accurate adoption information. Read past e-Newsletters at http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/newsletter/archive.html.

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